To Carroll County residents:
Out here in Afghanistan life is simple. Not easy, mind you, but simple. You keep your head down, your weapon and body clean, and keep to your training. You look out for your brothers in arms and they look out for you. In your spare time - and despite popular opinion we have that here - we play cards, read letters, and if we have access get on the phone or computer to home. These are simple things to do and yet sometimes they can be quite hard too.
It is easy to forget everything out here. For many of us everyday seems the same and the phrase “Groundhog Day” takes on a real meaning. Yes, things happen to break the routine, but we always pray they don’t. They are rarely things we want to happen. We also tend to measure time in odd ways. Laundry days, haircuts, paydays and other things you do or just expect as a habit take on new meaning out here. They become notches in our time left. While focusing on these things we find ourselves able to put other things out of our mind for a time.
My responsibilities involve getting Marines home safe. They are well trained and execute their duties with precision and fervor making that job a good bit easier. The Corps feeds us well, makes sure we have all the things we need, and is there for me to go to should I need more help with anything. I can also look around to any of my fellow staff noncommissioned officers for advice, assistance, and even just a little support when I am stressed. It is not an exaggeration to say we as Marines are a family, and the bonds- though different- are often just as strong.
It is my firm belief that I have it easy here. Not compared to others I serve with out here, but compared to my wife, Brandy. She has little of the things I do to help her at home. As a Reservist living far from a military base, she has little of the companionship and support from other spouses in the same situation as her. No military support ready to assist her as she awaits my return, yet she still manages. She faces a daunting task, much more daunting than mine.
My wife’s family and friends do their best and are great. Without them she might have folded under the stress of raising three children who miss their father and are a challenge even with me there. Thankfully, they as well have proven themselves able to cope and help her as well. I thank them for that constantly. So far my family is doing well thanks to such efforts. I am proud of them and especially Brandy for the superb job they have done.
However, it is not just family and friends that have been there for them. Carroll County has long supported me as an active Marine but now they have gone beyond that. I have received packages to be distributed to my fellow Marines, cards wishing me well, and letters of support too. I appreciate those things greatly, but they pale in comparison to the wishes and support given to my family.
My wife informed me that my children received extra gifts this year under the tree – a lot of gifts. I wish there were words to convey my gratitude for that. Just the thought that so many were thinking of them is astounding to me. I know I am not able to properly thank you all, but this is my attempt. Thank you. That sounds hollow when compared to how I feel, but no other words exist to convey my gratitude as well as those simple two. I cannot repay such kindness.
If there was ever a reason for me to be proud of what I do, our community is it. For anyone reading this know that I am proud to be from such a place. You are the reason I can stay here knowing my family is in good hands. Every time I start to worry about my family, I know they will be well. You all assure that. I can only hope my meager contribution here is worth some part of what you do back there to support me. There can be no greater pride than announcing where I serve from and why I will return there.
Many think the strength of a Marine is solely based on his training and his fellow Marines. I know the truth of that. Some of it comes from there for sure. However, our strength is largely based on the place we come from and the roots we have there. Much of our drive to succeed comes from there. It cannot be substituted from any other source.
I must go now. There is a watch to keep and a war to win. Trust me when I say we will win so long as we have your support. Also, don’t worry for me. I have something to come home to, and I will be doing so this spring. After all, I still have to play with all the cool toys my kids got and give the wife a break!
Thank you all so very much,
SSgt George D. Clayton
3rd Battalion, 25th Marines
Security Force, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan